Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel Rider of the White Horse loved by Australian writer Alison Stuart

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Alison Stuart describes herself as a ‘writer, lawyer, traveller, mother, wife and cat person!’ She  lives in Melbourne, Australia. Her ‘passion is for the period of the English Civil War’ and she has two published novels set in that era. She has written :

‘Rosemary Sutcliff was probably my biggest influence growing up with her Rider of the White Horse, sending me on a quest to learn all I could about Sir Thomas Fairfax’.

Sources: her website, blog and historical fiction books

3 comments

  1. Interestingly, Sutcliff and Goudge corresponded with each other, and Goudge wrote publicity comments to go with both “Sword at Sunset” and “Rider on a White Horse”.

    To me “Rider of the White Horse” goes hand-in-hand with Elizabeth Goudge’s “Whire Witch”, another novel of the English Civil War which is also magically evocative. Goudge’s style is in some ways reminiscent of Sutcliff’s- she captures the natural world with similar vivid, luminous detail and sense of divine mystery, though Goudge’s stories differ from Sutcliff’s in that they contain a high integral degree of Christian mysticism. Goudge can sometimes tend toward religious sentimentality, whereas Sutcliff is much more unsentimental, and pragmatic – what I see as her “soldierly” approach to life. I don’t think she would mind me saying she found the pagan worldview in many ways more sympathetic – she did comment somewhere to that effect herself.

    Sutcliff covered the English Civil War in a YA book as well, called “Simon”, where a typical Sutcliff partnership of two friends is put under intolerable pressure when their families take opposing sides in the conflict. A difficult choice in loyalties has to be made. That Sutcliff should choose to use a Puritam perspective is not surprising given the strong tradition of Quakerism in her family history.

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  2. So glad to know that others share my love of this book, so touching as Nan strives for Thomas’ love, which I think she gains, while finding out so much about the Civil War. It was this and Simon that made me adore history. But what about Brother Dusty Feet and The Armourers House? It’s her lovely little details of domestic life that make these books stand out. I often think she must have known Elizabeth Goudge .There is a short story called Mistress Anne that reminds me of Sutcliff, children watching as Anne Boleyn’s barge comes past.
    Don’t you love Moll and the kitten and Thomas sending troopers to collect them?

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  3. Thank you so much for the comment! I am deeply touched.

    I wasn’t kidding when I said she probably was the biggest influence on my writing growing up. In fact I attribute my appalling lopsided eyesight to reading Eagle of the Ninth under the bed covers by torchlight!

    I have just started to reassemble a small collection of my favourite Sutcliffs and they still resonate with me just as they did forty years ago.

    While Rider remains my all time favourite, the other Civil War novel SIMON was also a keeper and, of course, Eagle. I just hope the movie does justice to it!

    Would any of your other readers like to share their favourites?

    Regards
    Alison Stuart

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